How to Help a High-Functioning Alcoholic Loved One?


High-functioning alcoholics are great actors. They are individuals who are into alcohol abuse, but on the outside may seem to be relatively normal members of society. They dress well, can hold down a steady job, maintain loving households, can socialize effortlessly, and are likely to engage in their hobbies seamlessly; thereby appearing to be fully in control of their lives to the society. However, they’re trying to keep it together without drawing attention to their drinking problem for various personal reasons. But, in reality, the high-functioning alcoholic people are struggling with alcohol use disorder.

Therefore, if you are living with, or know someone who is a high-functioning alcoholic, you need this to guide them through the alcoholism phase and enable yourself to successfully deal with them without compromising your own mental health.

Avoid Codependency

Many partners, parents, or children of high-functioning alcoholics (HFA) often slip into the vicious cycle of codependency, where they tend to protect their alcoholic loved ones from the consequences of their addiction. Codependents delve in the practice of sacrificing their own needs to maintain a pretense of normalcy at home. This may include making excuses for the alcoholic’s actions, deliberately covering their alcohol or other expenses, keeping an eye on their drinking by providing them everything at home, emotionally manipulating them into leaving alcohol, or denying that the alcoholic has hurt you emotionally or physically.

These practices often affect the alcoholic opposite to what you have intended to, and they may continue or even increase drinking to maintain their status quo. Thus, the best way to avoid codependency is to build a strong and healthy sense of self. You can also seek a therapist to counsel you and strengthen your self-esteem to enable you to build a healthy and sober relationship.

Seek External Support

If you detect high-functioning alcoholism symptoms in someone close to you, it’s important to seek support for them soon. Self-help organizations, church groups, rehab centers, and 12-step programs at alcohol rehab center Cleveland offer valuable services. An addiction therapist also provides encouragement to people involved with high-functioning alcoholics and helps you find positive ways to deal with the stress of living with them.


Intervention in the case of a high-functioning alcoholic provides a platform to friends and family which allows them to express their concern for their loved one’s drinking habits. Early intervention is the best way to ensure that the long-term effects of excessive alcoholism don’t take a toll on your loved one’s health.

So, after a certain stage, it becomes crucial to express to an alcoholic how their drinking is negatively affecting you—whether emotionally, physically, spiritually, or financially. While talking to them you need to be careful to prevent them from getting overly defensive. To ensure that you make your point successfully:

  • Emphasize your feelings and concerns, rather than stating your expectations for them.
  • Do not judge them at any point of the conversation, and remain empathetic throughout to make them aware that you are genuinely concerned for them.
  • Remember to avoid striking a conversation when they are drunk.


Societal norms have made it normal to disregard these individuals as being high-functioning because they’re engaging in activities the society thinks a ‘normal’ person actually does, and always seems to bounce back. Whereas, under the façade, they are into regular and excess drinking.

Therefore, when living with a high-functioning alcoholic, it becomes your responsibility to take care of them and guide them out of this dark phase, but it’s important to ensure that you don’t ignore your health and desires in the process.




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